This week’s “Rabbit Hole” mission across the web started with memories of Letraset’s marvellous “Action Transfers” – specifically, Joe 90 “instant transfers” which if memory serves, I acquired through an offer on the back of a cereal packet… and ended up investigating a half-remembered 1960s Star Trek promotion – and a 1950s Weetabix competition in Eagle, by way of the fascinating cerealoffers.com.
We had a very limited offering of cereals growing up – Kelloggs Corn Flakes and Weetabix were staples, and porridge in winter… in fact, pretty much the same as what I have even now.
“Treats” were “Variety Packs” of Kelloggs cereals at my grandparents and Kelloggs “Sugar Smacks” (today marketed as “Honey Smacks”), a brand promoted with all sorts of TV tie ins from shows I loved as a kid like Thunderbirds, Doctor Who and Star Trek… erm, in fact, pretty much the same as I might watch even now…
Anyway – my ancient brain is convinced I acquired two Joe 90-related “Magic Instant Picture Books” via a Weetabix cereal pack offer, sometime in 1969. However, as with many things ephemeral, that happened decades ago, despite help from Tom Vinelott over at the brilliant Action-Transfers.com (after discussion prompted by my discovery of the modern Rub Down Transfers from Westair Reproductions), I’ve been unable to confirm this and I warn you now, I may be completely mis-remembering, except I do vividly remember waiting for them to arrive “within 28 days”. Trust me, those days were long.
(While “Action Transfers” were offered as promotions with many a cereal, it turns out Weetabix was rarely one of them, if at all – at least, as far the Action-Transfers team have been able to research so far).
This discussion prompted memories of an early British Star Trek promotional memory – cut out “Phasers” and “Communicators”, along with profiles of key characters, that I recall were integral to some food packaging or other… but here, my memory completely failed me as to which brand used them.
It’s possible it was Weetabix, but the promotion has been missed by collectors. Weetabix did do a Star Trek: The Motion Picture promotion in the late 1970s, where the back of the box had cut out shapes to make a cardboard model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and a Klingon Battle Cruiser, too – but this isn’t the promotion I recall.
Star Trek licensees must have been champing at the bit to get their products out since, as noted previously, the launch of the SF show in the UK had been delayed by the BBC from 1968, who cannily saw the first moon landing in July 1969 as the ideal time to launch the space exploration show on BBC1 – indeed, it started its first ever run here in the same week that Neil Armstrong made his “Small Step for Man”.
The publishers of Joe 90: Top Secret comic clearly couldn’t wait, as they launched with a brilliant tie-in strip in January 1969, well before the show aired here, albeit a strip limited by a lack of reference materials for the artist but which Harry Lindfield and, later, Mike Noble clearly relished illustrating, now available in three terrific collections from IDW.
This, I knew, as does many a downthetubes reader of a similar vintage, and memories of the Mr Spock Sugar Smacks packets are easily confirmed online in many different places. But who the heck promoted their food brand with cut out Phasers, Communicators etc?
Although you can find images of many a rare cereal packet thanks to assorted search engines – and eBay – I can find no trace of this early offer online, yet. I am fairly confident this was a very early, 1960s British Star Trek promotion that might even predate Kelloggs use of Star Trek, although its unlikely – my interest in the show would most certainly have been prompted by its TV airing, just as many a fan of other shows first take an interest.
Cue the discovery of www.cerealoffers.com – a splendid web site launched back in 2014, intended as a reference source to all collectors, its researches aide by visitors from around the globe. To give you some idea of what’s included, it features over 8000 pictures of gifts, packets, adverts and promotional items specifically relating to Weetabix, Quaker, Cereal Partners and Kelloggs across 2500 plus pages.
A site based on such ephemeral things as cereal packets and gifts is grateful for the help of visitors – because despite the diligence of the site’s team of researchers and contributors, let’s face it – it’s rare for most people to keep fifty-year-old cereal boxes.
One item I have helped with is an item about a competition run by Weetabix in association with Eagle in 1950. The cereal-offers team had found one reference to it, but I tracked down a copy of the relevant issue of Eagle cover dated 8th September 1950, which hopefully affords the site more leads in their cereal-fuelled quest.
Cereal-Offers.com really is a wonderful site with artwork on boxes by many a well-known comic artist, including Dan Dare’s Keith Watson, for one, and well worth a visit, even if I couldn’t find the answer to the Star Trek memory that’s now going to bug me for the rest of the week. Strange how something from a 1950s Eagle was so easy to find, but a Star Trek item from 1968/69 – one of the most documented SF properties, ever – proves elusive.
Readers – do you remember the Star Trek promotion I’m on about? Answers on the back of a cereal packet please, to the usual address…
The Mystery Solved?
UPDATE – 13th April 2022: With much thanks to Star Trek fan Lisa Herrera
It turns out my ancient brain is even fuzzier than I thought, because the cereal promotion I was remembering may well have been a promotion for Burton’s Crackers – or, as they were promoted, “Burton’s Star Trek Crackers“, produced in 1970 for the UK market. Lisa kindly pointed me toward an eBay, where US seller “pezdudewelch” has one of the boxes for sale, for the eye-watering amount of $1500, reflecting its rarity.
I can’t shake the memory, however, that the promotion I’m remembering featured more than just the Star Trek Communicator as a cut out – there were other items, too, like a Shuttlecraft, and profiles of key characters. These don’t appear to be part of the Kellogs cereal promotion… so the search for a definitive answer continues!
• Flickr: The Sugar Frosted Cereal Museum
A group pool of cereal packets and giveaways
• Science Fiction-related Cereal Box Collectables on eBay.uk – yes, some people really, really don’t throw anything away (a bit like comic collectors like me…)
• Mr Breakfast is a more US-oriented cereal-inspired web site, complete with an archive of TV ads dating back to the 1950s
Want some more Star Trek from the 1960s and 70s? what about these Star Trek comic collections, published by IDW, featuring the “Star Trek” strips from Joe 90 and TV21?
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.